September 20th, 2010

Rules Are Made to Be Followed. Obsessively.

Angie McCullagh

Let’s assume most of you have seen the movie Election, with Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick. If you haven’t, I think it’s safe to postulate that you’ve heard of Ms. Flick. She is an over-achieving, ruthlessly ambitious girl running for class president.

I saw the film back in the late nineties. I laughed along with everyone else. And then I promptly forgot about it.

Then, in 2005 I had a baby girl, who is now five-year-old Belle. She just started Kindergarten last week. I’ve always known Belle to be a chronic rule-follower. And enforcer. Which is great. To an extent.

I never have to worry that she’ll be sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior or that anyone in her general vicinity will be unaware of what classroom or playground rules apply to them. Because Belle will (loudly) make them known to any potential wrongdoers.

What I didn’t foresee is how this quirk may set her apart from other kids. Or how much she’d remind me of Tracy Flick.

Now, I know we’re just barely into the school year. I know Belle will most likely unclench some and refrain from sprinting to the slide and barking warnings any time another child decides running up it is a good idea.

But I’d be lying if I said I weren’t at least a little concerned.

On the fourth day of school, Belle was the first in her class to get a coveted purple card. This is the highest honor given to students who sit quietly, raise their hand when they have something to say, and do what they’re told when they’re told to do it.

Needless to say, Belle was ecstatic with her purple card. And while marching into school on the fifth day of school, she announced, “My goal is to get a purple card again today. And everyday.”

“Wow,” I said. “Well, don’t be too hard on yourself.”

She did, indeed, come home with the purple card that day. The next day, too.

I think Belle’s attraction to structure, routine, and order is kind of adorable. I’m somewhat amused by her drive to keep everyone else in line. But it’s still early days. If she keeps it up, by high school she’ll be annoying teachers and baking Pick Flick-esque cupcakes advising other kids that Rules are Cool!

Then, no matter that she’s accrued 5,836 purple cards, Belle’s social life will be over.

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This Weeks Tip

For a creative way to limit your kids time in front of the TV… give them a small sum of money each week (over and above their allowance, if they get one). Each time they watch a television show, charge them a dime. They’ll begin editing their own TV watching!